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Students Build Problem-Solving & Teamwork Skills


“I liked this program because you get to be a construction worker and architect at the same time. You can have success if you just believe you can do it. If it does not work, try again.”  -  Third Grader Safaran Cadenhead

Students from Hance, Richland and Wexford Elementary schools were challenged to take 100 pieces of uncooked spaghetti and 100 marshmallows and build a 30-centimeter bridge.  The bridge project was one of a few activities students participated in during STEAM Day on March 15, 2018, in the PRHS Stadium Spirit Room.

Hance Elementary GATE Teacher Danielle Czegan said that students had the opportunity to strengthen various problem-solving skills during the day’s exercises.

“All three primary buildings came together today for a common goal of math enrichment,” said Ms. Czegan. “Students are developing computational, abstract and logical thinking skills as well as multi-step problem-solving skills.”

Since students were paired with a student from another school, Wexford Elementary Library Media Specialist & GATE Teacher Maria McCormick said students strengthened other key skills as well.

“This program gives students an opportunity to shine and work with students they don’t know,” said Ms. McCormick.  “Teamwork and communication are soft skills needed in the workforce.”

Richland Elementary GATE Teacher Jan Montgomery reiterated those sentiments and was pleased with how the students mastered some of the soft skills.

“They have been attentive and cooperative,” said Ms. Montgomery. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids to work with other kids from other schools. They’re learning to work as a team and to communicate.”

Many parent volunteers helped with the day’s events including parent Perry Dougherty, who is an engineer, so he comes with some special insight.

“They are building and learning some things don’t work,” Mr. Dougherty said. “They are working to create things quickly and are able to create a better, stronger version. They are learning what does not work and that their first idea is not always the best. As a result, they can build faster, fail faster and come up with a better end product.”

Students had some feedback on how the day went.

“I really like that we have been working as a group rather than individuals,” said Richland Elementary second-grader Julia Mehalik.

Hance third grader Safran Cadenhead spoke about the challenges she had during problem-solving.

“The hardest part is getting the structure just right and to make sure it’s strong,” Safran said.

Wexford Elementary second-grader Omansh Varshney provided insight on why he liked the program and what contributed to his success.

“I liked this program because you get to be a construction worker and architect at the same time,” said Omansh. “You can have success if you just believe you can do it. If it does not work, try again.”

Students also had a chance to participate in the Slender Tower Challenge by building a tall tower out of paper.

Prior to the start of the problem-solving activities, students participated in the International Kangaroo Exam, which challenges students to solve problems with computational thinking, abstract thinking and multilevel problem solving, which requires students to solve something before they can move on to a final solution.